Yvonne Abraham

Who needs reality?

By Yvonne Abraham
Globe Columnist / July 10, 2011

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Footage from Fenway for Fourth fireworks faked!

Those TV images of Boston’s Independence Day pyrotechnics bursting above our hallowed ballpark sure looked lovely. Turns out they were digital sleights of hand.

I haven’t been this shocked since I found out “The Hills’’ was scripted.

(Seriously, who would have imagined that the pinheads on MTV’s cult reality show could read lines? Though, like the CBS fireworks coverage, “The Hills’’ wasn’t totally fake: Heidi’s huge breast implants were real.)

Philanthropist David Mugar, who produces the fireworks show, defended his decision to superimpose the rockets on preshot images of Boston landmarks to create the impossible footage. Producer David E. Kelley does this all the time, he argued: “Boston Legal’’ is really filmed in a studio in Hollywood.

This argument is brilliant, until you consider the fact that “Boston Legal’’ is a fictional TV show and the Fourth of July fireworks truly happen - on the real Charles River, in the actual city of Boston.

Still, the Fourth fiasco got me thinking: What if we could manipulate other quintessentially local phenomena the way Mugar’s crew did? What if we could create a Massachusetts that isn’t bound by annoying limitations such as geography and physics?

For example, the Boston Marathon could use a change of scenery after so many years. Enough Hopkinton: Why not superimpose the runners on Harvard Square, or Bunker Hill, or hey, how about the Champs-Elysees?

While we’re on sports, superimposing some black baseball fans onto crowds at Fenway would do wonders for our reputation for racial harmony. Why not pop working-class families in too, to make it look like they can afford to go to games?

What if we applied this technique, called “matting,’’ to our maddening commutes? On summer weekends, extra lanes could magically appear on Route 3, where Cape drivers’ middle fingers could be digitally enhanced into friendly waves.

On the T, legions of blissfully happy commuters could be inserted into rail cars. Cut to an aerial shot, and we’d see new trains hurtling across the region like sparkling bullets.

We could solve Boston’s real estate woes this way, too. That unsightly, downtown hole where Filene’s used to be would look lovely with the image of a gleaming skyscraper popped on top.

And there are acres and acres of barren land at the Seaport just begging to be populated with images of buildings. One of those pretend buildings could even be City Hall, fulfilling one of Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s fondest hopes.

I bet the mayor would really get into this matting thing. For example, he’d probably enjoy seeing images of certain city councilors projected onto scenes from Siberia. Or onto the waters off the Cape - unless tourism officials think to superimpose images of dolphins where those four great white sharks were seen.

Actually, a lot of politicians could benefit from this type of treatment. Have you ever noticed how awkward our patrician Senator John Kerry looks among ordinary folk? Ditto former governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney? Marry footage of them looking relaxed with scenes from, say, Southie dive bar Whitey’s and, voila, Men of the People!

Did someone say Whitey? What heaven it would be to place images of a young James Bulger in the courtrooms where the current, 81-year-old version now appears. That way, we could let ourselves believe that the allegedly murderous creep will live long enough to pay for his heinous crimes.

It’s a beautiful world of possibilities Mugar has opened up here. I like the Boston where fireworks exploding above the Charles somehow find their way to Quincy Market. I want to live in a place where even our perfect traditions are digitally enhanced.

True, none of it would be real. But real is overrated.

Mat me, Mr. Mugar.

Yvonne Abraham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at